ILO PRINCIPLES CONCERNING THE RIGHT TO STRIKE

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1 ILO PRINCIPLES CONCERNING THE RIGHT TO STRIKE Bernard GERNIGON, Alberto ODERO and Horacio GUIDO INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE GENEVA

2 Copyright International Labour Organization 1998 ISBN First published in the International Labour Review, Vol. 137 (1998), No. 4. This edition 2000 The designations employed in ILO publications, which are in conformity with United Nations practice, and the presentation or material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the International Labour Office concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation or its frontiers. The responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles, studies and other contributions rests solely with theilr authors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the International Labour Office or the opinions expressed in them. Reference to names of firms and commercial products and processes does not imply their endorsement by the International Labour Office, and any failure to mention a particular firm, commercial product or process is not a sign of disapproval. ILO publications can be obtained through major booksellers or ILO local offices in many countries, or direct from ILO Publications, International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland. Catalogues or lists of new publications are available free of charge from the above address. Printed in Switzerland BRI/ART Cover illustration: Linked Hands II, by Pablo Picasso, copyright 2000, ProLitteris, 8033 Zurich.

3 PREFACE Respect for freedom of association around the world is a fundamental and unavoidable requirement for the International Labour Organization because of its most essential structural characteristic, namely tripartism, and the important responsibilities based on the Constitution and ILO instruments that employers and workers organizations are called upon to exercise within the Organization itself as well as within the different member States. The new ILO Declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work adopted by the International Labour Conference in 1998, declares that all Members, even if they have not ratified the Conventions in question, have an obligation, arising from the very fact of membership in the Organization, to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith and in accordance with the Constitution, the principles concerning the fundamental rights, which include freedom of association. Without freedom of association or, in other words, without employers and workers organizations that are autonomous, independent, representative and endowed with the necessary rights and guarantees for the furtherance and defence of the rights of their members and the advancement of the common welfare, the principle of tripartism would be impaired, if not completely stripped of all meaning, and chances for greater social justice would be seriously prejudiced. As freedom of association is one of the principles safeguarding peace and social justice, it is entirely understandable, on the one hand, that the ILO has adopted a series of Conventions, Recommendations and resolutions which form the most important international source on this subject, and, on the other hand, that in addition to the general supervisory machinery, in particular the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, a special procedure has been created for the effective protection of trade union rights; this special procedure was entrusted to the Fact-Finding and Conciliation Commission on Freedom of Association and the Committee on Freedom of Association. 3

4 These bodies have established a significant jurisprudence in the largest sense of the word in respect of the various aspects of trade union rights. In this publication which has already appeared as an article in the International Labour Review, Vol. 137 (1998) No. 4 the principles of the Committee on Freedom of Association and of the Committee of Experts concerning the right to strike have been set forth. This right has been affirmed in the 1957 Resolution concerning the Abolition of Anti-Trade Union Legislation in the States Members of the International Labour Organisation and the 1970 Resolution concerning Trade Union Rights and Their Relation to Civil Liberties, as well as in numerous resolutions of the ILO s regional conferences and industrial committees, and by other international bodies. The Bureau for Workers Activities has considered it appropriate, in view of the importance of this question, to sponsor this publication jointly with the Freedom of Association Branch, thus reinforcing the internal collaboration on the promotion of certain aspects of trade union rights within the framework of international labour standards. Manuel Simón Velasco Director of the Bureau for Workers Activities 4

5 INDEX Preface Introduction General issues The basic principle of the right to strike Definition of the right to strike and various types of strike action Objectives of strikes Political strikes Sympathy strikes Workers who enjoy the right to strike and those who are excluded Public service Essential services in the strict sense of the term Terminological clarification regarding the concept of essential service and minimum service Compensatory guarantees for workers deprived of the right to strike Acute national emergency Conditions for exercising the right to strike Conciliation, mediation and voluntary arbitration Compulsory arbitration Quorum and majority for declaring strikes Freedom to work for no-strikers Situation in which minimum service may be imposed Declaration of illegality of a strike for failure to comply with legal requirements Strikes, collective bargaining and social peace Protection against act of anti-union discrimination in connection with strikes International labour standards regarding anti-union discrimination. Persons protected and types of act of anti-union discrimination in strike contexts Protection machinery

6 7. Abuses in exerting the right to strike Other principles involved Pickets Requisitioning of workers Hiring of workers to replace strikers Compulsory closing down, intervention of the police, and access by management to the enterprise Wage deductions for days of strike action Restrictions placed by national legislation on the exercise of the right to strike Body of principles of the right to strike Final observations References

7 Introduction It may be surprising to find that the right to strike is not set out explicitly in ILO Conventions and Recommendations. It has been discussed on several occasions in the International Labour Conference during the course of preparatory work on instruments dealing with related topics, but for various reasons this has never given rise to international standards (Conventions or Recommendations) directly governing the right to strike. 1 However, the absence of explicit ILO standards should not lead to the conclusion that the Organization disregards the right to strike or abstains from providing a protective framework within which it may be exercised. Two resolutions of the International Labour Conference itself which provide guidelines for ILO policy in one way or another emphasized recognition of the right to strike in member States. The Resolution concerning the Abolition of Anti-Trade Union Legislation in the States Members of the International Labour Organisation, adopted in 1957, called for the adoption of laws ensuring the effective and unrestricted exercise of trade union rights, including the right to strike, by the workers (ILO, 1957, p. 783). Similarly, the Resolution concerning Trade Union Rights and Their Relation to Civil Liberties, adopted in 1970, invited the Governing Body to instruct the Director-General to take action in a number of ways with a view to considering further action to ensure full and universal respect for trade union rights in their broadest sense, with particular attention to be paid, inter alia, to the right to strike (ILO, 1970, pp ). The right to strike has also been affirmed in various resolutions of the ILO s regional 1 The right to strike is, however, mentioned incidentally in a Convention and in a Recommendation. The Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), prohibits the use of forced or compulsory labour as a punishment for having participated in strikes (Article 1, subparagraph (d); and the Voluntary Conciliation and Arbitration Recommendation, 1951 (No. 92), first mentions strikes in paragraphs 4 and 6, then states in paragraph 7 that no provision it contains may be interpreted as limiting, in any way whatsoever, the right to strike (ILO, 1996b, p. 89 and 1996a, p. 660). 7

8 conferences and industrial committees, as well as by other international bodies (see Hodges-Aeberhard and Odero, 1987, pp. 543 and 545). Furthermore, though it does not explicitly mention the right to strike, the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), establishes the right of workers and employers organizations to organize their administration and activities and to formulate their programmes (Article 3), and the aims of such organizations as furthering and defending the interests of workers or of employers (Article 10), (ILO, 1996a, pp. 528 and 529). On the basis of these provisions, the two bodies set up to supervise the application of ILO standards, the Committee on Freedom of Association (since 1952) and the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (since 1959), 2 have frequently stated that the right to strike is a fundamental right of workers and of their organizations, and have defined the limits within which it may be exercised, laying down a body of principles in connection with the right to strike 3 giving rise to substantial case law in the broadest sense of the term which renders more explicit the extent of the provisions mentioned above. 4 Of the remaining supervisory bodies of the ILO, the committees established under article 24 of its Constitution do not deal, in principle, with matters relating to the right to strike, since the Governing Body generally refers the corresponding complaints to the Committee on Freedom of Association. The few Commissions of Inquiry that have been set up in response to complaints under article 26 of the ILO Constitution for non-observance of Conventions relating to trade union rights refer in their conclusions to the principles of the Committee on Freedom of Association and of the Committee of Experts, and the same is true of the Fact- Finding and Conciliation Commission on Freedom of Association. 2 The mandate, composition and procedure of the ILO s supervisory bodies are described, for example, in ILO, 1995, pp These principles are contained in particular in ILO: Freedom of association and collective bargaining, a General Survey of Conventions No. 87 and No. 98, conducted in 1994 by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (ILO, 1994a); and in ILO: Freedom of Association, Digest of decisions and principles of the Freedom of Association Committee of the Governing Body of the ILO (ILO, 1996d). These are frequently referred to in ILO publications in their abbreviated forms: General Survey, 1994 and CFA Digest, respectively. 4 During the discussions preceding the adoption of Convention No. 87, no amendment expressly establishing or denying the right to strike was submitted (ILO, 1994a, para. 142). 8

9 Finally, the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards has noted that a broad consensus exists among its members regarding the principle of the right to strike, although the views of the Workers Group, the Employers Group and the Government delegates do not coincide (see ILO, 1994b, pp. 25/31-25/41, and ILO, 1998a, pp. 18/23-18/25). The Workers Group fully supports the approach of the Committee of Experts regarding the right to strike, considering it to be inalienable from the right to freedom of association protected by Convention No. 87 and by the principles embodied in the ILO Constitution. The Employers Group considers that the right to carry out direct action for workers the right to strike and for employers the right to lock out could perhaps be acknowledged as an integral part of international common law and, as such, it should not be totally banned or authorized only under excessively restrictive conditions. Nevertheless, the Employers Group has emphasized that Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 do not contain specific provisions regarding the right to strike and, therefore, it does not accept that the Committee of Experts should deduce from the text of these Conventions a global, precise and detailed, absolute and unlimited right. Several Government delegates on the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, during the discussion of the General Survey of the Committee of Experts on freedom of association and collective bargaining, in 1994, stated their general agreement with the position of the Committee of Experts regarding strikes, while others expressed some doubts as regards particular considerations in the General Survey, or identified specific problems arising notably in connection with the public service; the majority of Government members made no comment. It should be borne in mind that, unlike the other supervisory bodies, the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards has a particularly large number of members (214 in 1998, excluding deputy members). The purpose of this article is to elucidate the principles regarding the right to strike laid down by the Governing Body s Committee on Freedom of Association and by the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, which have evolved substantially over the last decade. It is interesting to note that these bodies take each other s reports into account: the Committee of Experts frequently refers in its observations to the reports of the Committee on Freedom of Association in matters 9

10 relating to respect for freedom of association in different countries, while the latter consults the Committee of Experts on the legal aspects of the cases it examines, or employs principles laid down by the Committee of Experts. Taken up in turn are general issues, objectives of strikes, workers included or excluded, conditions for exercising the right to strike, strikes and collective bargaining, anti-union discrimination, abuses, legislative restrictions, summary of principles, and final observations. 10

11 1. General issues The basic principle of the right to strike From its very earliest days, during its second meeting, in 1952, the Committee on Freedom of Association declared strike action to be a right and laid down the basic principle underlying this right, from which all others to some extent derive, and which recognizes the right to strike to be one of the principal means by which workers and their associations may legitimately promote and defend their economic and social interests (ILO, 1996d, paras ). Over the years, in line with this principle, the Committee on Freedom of Association has recognized that strike action is a right and not simply a social act, and has also: 1. made it clear it is a right which workers and their organizations (trade unions, federations and confederations) are entitled to enjoy; 5 2. reduced the number of categories of workers who may be deprived of this right, as well as the legal restrictions on its exercise, which should not be excessive; 3. linked the exercise of the right to strike to the objective of promoting and defending the economic and social interests of workers (which criterion excludes strikes of a purely political nature from the scope of international protection provided by the ILO, although the Committee makes no direct statement or indication regarding sympathy strikes other than that they cannot be banned outright; this matter will be examined subsequently); 4. stated that the legitimate exercise of the right to strike should not entail prejudicial penalties of any sort, which would imply acts of anti-union discrimination. 5 Nevertheless, the supervisory bodies have accepted that legislation may make the exercise of this right subject to the agreement of a certain percentage of the workers, regardless of their union membership. 11

12 These views expressed by the Committee on Freedom of Association coincide in substance with those of the Committee of Experts. Definition of the right to strike and various types of strike action The principles of the ILO s supervisory bodies contain no definition of strike action which would permit definitive conclusions to be drawn regarding the legitimacy of the different ways in which the right to strike may be exercised. However, some types of strike action (including occupation of the workplace, go-slow or work-to rule strikes), which are not merely typical work stoppages, have been accepted by the Committee on Freedom of Association, provided that they are conducted in a peaceful manner (ibid., para. 496). The Committee of Experts has stated that: When the right to strike is guaranteed by national legislation, a question that frequently arises is whether the action undertaken by workers constitutes a strike under the law. Any work stoppage, however brief and limited, may generally be considered as a strike. This is more difficult to determine when there is no work stoppage as such but a slowdown in work (go-slow strike) or when work rules are applied to the letter (work-to-rule); these forms of strike action are often just as paralysing as a total stoppage. Noting that national law and practice vary widely in this respect, the Committee is of the opinion that restrictions as to the forms of strike action can only be justified if the action ceases to be peaceful. The Committee considers that restrictions on strike pickets and workplace occupations should be limited to cases where the action ceases to be peaceful (ILO, 1994a, paras. 173 and 174). 12

13 2. Objectives of strikes This section examines the nature of claims pursued through strike action which are covered by the body of principles set down by the Committee on Freedom of Association and the Committee of Experts. In discussing this matter, reference should be made at the outset to Article 10 of Convention No. 87 which, for the purposes of the Convention, defines worker organizations as any organization for furthering and defending the interests of workers. This definition is clearly of fundamental importance not only in that it sets down guidelines for differentiating such organizations from those of other types, but also because it specifies the purpose of such organizations is for furthering and defending the interests of workers thereby demarcating the boundaries within which the rights and guarantees recognized by the Convention are applicable, and consequently protected in so far as they achieve or seek to achieve the stated objectives. The nature of the demands pursued through strike action may be categorized as being occupational (seeking to guarantee or improve workers working or living conditions), trade union (seeking to guarantee or develop the rights of trade union organizations and their leaders), or political. The two former categories do not give rise to any particular problems as from the outset the Committee on Freedom of Association has made clear decisions stating that they are legitimate. However, within the three categories of demand specified, a distinction should be made as to whether or not they directly and immediately affect the workers who call the strike. This introduces the issue of the political strike and the sympathy strike. It should at once be noted that the Committee on Freedom of Association and the Committee of Experts have rejected the notion that the right to strike should be confined to industrial disputes that are likely to be resolved through the signing of a collective agreement. 13

14 Political strikes On the basis of the definition of workers organization contained in Article 10 of Convention No. 87, the Committee on Freedom of Association considers that strikes of a purely political nature do not fall within the scope of the principles of freedom of association (ILO, 1996d, para. 481). However, although the Committee has expressly stated that it is only in so far as trade union organizations do not allow their occupational demands to assume a purely political aspect that they can legitimately claim that there should be no interference in their activities, it has also specified that it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between what is political and what is, properly speaking, trade union in character, and that these two notions overlap (ibid., para. 457). Hence, in a subsequent decision, the Committee concluded that the occupational and economic interests which workers defend through the exercise of the right to strike do not only concern better working conditions or collective claims of an occupational nature, but also the seeking of solutions to economic and social policy questions (ibid., para. 479). Along the same lines, the Committee has stated that workers and their organizations should be able to express their dissatisfaction regarding economic and social matters affecting workers interests in circumstances that extend beyond the industrial disputes that are likely to be resolved through the signing of a collective agreement (ibid., para. 484). Nevertheless, worker action should consist merely in the expression of a protest and not be intended as a breach of the peace (ILO, 1979, para. 450). In this connection, the Committee on Freedom of Association has stated that a declaration of the illegality of a national strike protesting against the social and labour consequences of the government s economic policy and the banning of the strike constitute a serious violation of freedom of association (ILO, 1996d, para. 493). That said, it should be added that the principles laid down cover both strikes at the local level, and general strikes, which by their nature have a markedly political connotation. As regards the geographical scope of the strike: The Committee [on Freedom of Association] has stated on many occasions that strikes at the national level are legitimate in so far as they have economic and social objectives and not purely political ones; the prohibition of strikes could only be acceptable in the case of public servants exercising authority in the name of the State or of workers in essential services in the strict sense of the term, i.e. services whose interruption could 14

15 endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population (ILO, 1996d, para. 492). As regards the general strike, in its examination of one particular case, the Committee considered that [a] 24-hour general strike seeking an increase in the minimum wage, respect of collective agreements in force and a change in economic policy (to decrease prices and unemployment) is legitimate and within the normal field of activity of trade union organizations (ibid., para. 494). Similarly, in connection with another case, the Committee concluded that [a] general protest strike demanding that an end be put to the hundreds of murders of trade union leaders and unionists during the past few years is a legitimate trade union activity and its prohibition therefore constitutes a serious violation of freedom of association (ibid., para. 495). The Committee on Freedom of Association s attitude in cases where the demands pursued through strike action include some of an occupational or trade union nature and others of a political nature has been to recognize the legitimacy of the strike when the occupational or trade union demands expressed did not seem merely a pretext disguising purely political objectives unconnected with the promotion and defence of workers interests. The Committee of Experts also has stated that strikes that are purely political in character do not fall within the scope of freedom of association. However, the difficulty arises from the fact that it is often impossible to distinguish in practice between the political and occupational aspects of a strike, since a policy adopted by a government frequently has immediate repercussions for workers or employers; this is the case, for example, of a general wage and price freeze. In the view of the Committee, organizations responsible for defending workers socio-economic and occupational interests should, in principle, be able to use strike action to support their position in the search for solutions posed by major social and economic policy trends which have a direct impact on their members and on workers in general, in particular as regards employment, social protection and the standard of living (ILO, 1994a, para. 165). Sympathy strikes Where sympathy strikes are concerned, the crux of the issue is to decide whether workers may declare a strike for occupational, 15

16 trade union or social and economic motives which do not affect them in a direct and immediate manner. In its General Survey of 1983, the Committee of Experts defined sym-pathy strikes ( where workers come out in support of another strike ) and determined that a general prohibition of sympathy strikes could lead to abuse and that workers should be able to take such action provided that the initial strike they are supporting is itself lawful (ILO, 1983b, para. 217). This principle was then taken up in 1987 by the Committee on Freedom of Association when it examined a Decree which did not ban sympathy strikes but merely regulated them by limiting the possibilities of recourse to this type of action. In the Committee s opinion, although several provisions contained in the Decree might be justified by the need to respect various procedures (notification of the strike to the labour authorities) or to guarantee security within the undertaking (the prevention of agitators and strike-breakers from entering the workplace) others, however, such as geographical or sectoral restrictions placed on sym-pathy strikes which therefore exclude general strikes of this nature or restrictions on their duration and frequency, constitute a serious obstacle to the calling of such strikes (ILO, 1987, paras. 417 and 418). Similarly, the Committee of Experts has subsequently stated that: Sympathy strikes, which are recognized as lawful in some countries, are becoming increasingly frequent because of the move towards the concentration of enterprises, the globalization of the economy and the delocalization of work centres. While pointing out that a number of distinctions need to be drawn here (such as an exact definition of the concept of a sympathy strike; a relationship justifying recourse to this type of strike, etc.), the Committee considers that a general prohibition on sympathy strikes could lead to abuse and that workers should be able to take such action, provided the initial strike they are supporting is itself lawful (ILO, 1994a, para. 168). 16

17 3. Workers who enjoy the right to strike and those who are excluded It should be noted, first and foremost, that Article 9 of Convention No. 87 states that the extent to which the guarantees provided for in this Convention shall apply to the armed forces and the police shall be determined by national laws or regulations (ILO, 1996a, p. 528). As a result, the Committee on Freedom of Association has refused to find an objection to legislations which deny the right to strike to such groups of workers. Since the Committee on Freedom of Association first laid down its earliest principles on the subject of strikes, and given that strike action is one of the fundamental means for rendering effective the right of workers organizations to organize their activities (Article 3 of Convention No. 87), the Committee has chosen to recognize a general right to strike, with the sole possible exceptions being those which may be imposed for public servants and workers in essential services in the strict sense of the term. Obviously, the Committee on Freedom of Association also accepts the prohibition of strikes in the event of an acute national emergency (ILO, 1996d, para. 527), as will be seen in a later section on this question. The Committee of Experts has in turn adopted this approach. Public service Both supervisory bodies were cognizant, where public servants are concerned, of the consensus reached during the preparatory discussions leading to the adoption of Convention No. 87, to the effect that the recognition of the right of association of public servants in no way prejudges the question of the right of such officials to strike (ILO, 1947, p. 109). The Committee on Freedom of Association and the Committee of Experts both agree that when public servants are not granted the right to strike, they should enjoy sufficient guarantees to protect their interests, including appropriate, 17

18 impartial and prompt conciliation and arbitration procedures to ensure that all parties may participate at all stages and in which arbitration decisions are binding on both parties and are fully and promptly applied. It should also be stressed that, while the provisions of Convention No. 151 and of Recommendation No. 159 on labour relations in the public service adopted in 1978 cover the settlement of disputes, among other things, no explicit mention is made of the right to strike for public servants. 6 That being said, it should be emphasized that on the question of the right to strike in the public service, the ILO s supervisory bodies approach is based on the fact that the concept of public servant varies considerably from one country to another. It may be deduced from the statements of the Committee of Experts and of the Committee on Freedom of Association that the concept of public servants, where their possible exclusion from the right to strike is concerned, relates to public servants who exercise authority in the name of the State (ILO, 1996d, para. 534). The implications of this approach are important in that the guidelines for determining those public servants who may be excluded no longer emanates from the application to them of the national law governing the public service, but from the nature of the functions that such public servants carry out. Thus, while the right to strike of officials in the employ of ministries and other comparable government bodies, as well as that of their assistants and of officials working in the administration of justice and of staff in the judiciary, may be subject to major restrictions or even prohibitions (ibid., paras. 537 and 538), the same does not apply, for instance, to persons employed by state enterprises. To date, in response to complaints submitted to it, the Committee on Freedom of Association has stated that certain categories of public servant do not exercise authority in the name of the State, such as public servants in state-owned commercial or industrial enterprises (ibid., para. 532), in oil, banking and metropolitan transport undertakings or those employed in the education sector and, more generally, those who work in state companies and enterprises (ILO, 1984a, 233rd Report, para. 668; ILO, 1983b, 226th Report, para. 343; and ILO, 1996d, note to para. 492). Finally, it should be noted that, among the categories of 6 In that year, following a lengthy debate, the Committee on the Public Service of the International Labour Conference concluded that the proposed Convention did not deal in one way or the other with the question of the right to strike (ILO, 1978, p. 25/9, para. 62). 18

19 public servant who do not exercise authority in the name of the State, those who carry out an essential service in the strict sense of the term may be excluded from having recourse to strike action. This concept will be examined in the following paragraphs. The Committee of Experts shares the principles of the Committee on Freedom of Association regarding situations in which the right to strike is severely restricted or even prohibited. In this connection, the Committee of Experts has observed that a too broad definition of the concept of public servant is likely to result in a very wide restriction or even a prohibition of the right to strike for these workers (ILO, 1994a, para. 158). The Committee has pointed out that one of the main difficulties is due to the fact that the concept itself varies considerably from one legal system to another. For example, the terms civil servant, fonctionnaire and funcionario are far from having the same coverage; furthermore, an identical term used in the same language does not always mean the same thing in different countries; lastly, some systems classify public servants in different categories, with different status, obligations and rights, while such distinctions do not exist in other systems or do not have the same consequences. The Committee has considered that although it cannot overlook the special characteristics and legal and social traditions of each country, it must endeavour to establish fairly uniform criteria in order to examine the compatibility of legislation with the provisions of Convention No. 87. For this reason it has judged it futile to try to draw up an exhaustive and universally applicable list of categories of public servant who should enjoy the right to strike or be denied such a right given that they exercise authority in the name of the State. The Committee is aware of the fact that, except for the groups falling clearly into one category or another, the matter will frequently be one of degree. For this reason, in borderline cases, it has suggested one solution might be not to impose a total prohibition of strikes, but rather to provide for the maintaining by a defined and limited category of staff of a negotiated minimum service when a total and prolonged stoppage might result in serious consequences for the public (ILO, 1994a, para. 158). 19

20 Essential services in the strict sense of the term Over time, the supervisory bodies of the ILO have brought greater precision to the concept of essential services in the strict sense of the term (for which strike action may be prohibited). In 1983, the Committee of Experts defined such services as those the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population (ILO, 1983b, para. 214). This definition was adopted by the Committee on Freedom of Association shortly afterwards. Clearly, what is meant by essential services in the strict sense of the term depends to a large extent on the particular circumstances prevailing in a country ; likewise, there can be no doubt that a non-essential service may become essential if a strike lasts beyond a certain time or extends beyond a certain scope, thus endangering the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population (ILO, 1996d, para. 541). The Committee on Freedom of Association has none the less given its opinion in a general manner on the essential or non-essential nature of a series of specific services. Thus, the Committee has considered to be essential services in the strict sense, where the right to strike may be subject to major restrictions or even prohibitions, to be: the hospital sector; electricity services; water supply services; the telephone service; air traffic control (ibid., para. 544). In contrast, the Committee has considered that, in general the following do not constitute essential services in the strict sense of the term, and therefore the prohibition to strike does not pertain (ibid., para 545): radio and television; the petroleum sector; ports (loading and unloading); banking; computer services for the collection of excise duties and taxes; department stores; pleasure parks; the metal sector; the mining sector; transport generally; refrigeration enterprises; hotel services; construction; automobile manufacturing; aircraft repairs; agricultural activities; the supply and distribution of foodstuffs; 20

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